Question: I need to divorce my husband because he won't treat his mental illness. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by a doctor at Emory in Atlanta and he doesn't stay on his meds and he acts crazy a lot. I don't know what he's going to do and I'm worried that he's going to hurt himself or someone else, and that someone could be me.
When he's on his meds he's great; he's fun, smart and he really is a great dad. But when he doesn't takes the meds he's really nuts and he says and does crazy stuff.
He's a doctor and he works at a hospital in North Fulton County. He's a good doctor and cares about his patients. The meds keep him in control and functioning normally. But if he doesn't take the meds he'll curse people out and he's been known to throw things at people. He'll throw plates, bottles, books and he threw a chair at me two weeks ago.
We have three children, two girls and a boy, who I think might be gay. When my husband is off his meds he calls our son names like “pretty boy” and says he “light in the loafer.” He thinks the boy is gay just because he'll sometimes wear a feathered-boa that I had in college or a miniskirt. My son calls the miniskirt a kilt, but it isn't, it's a lady's skirt.
He tells our daughters that they're pretty enough to be strippers at the Cheetah in Midtown Atlanta. I think that's a terrible thing to say to teenaged girls.
I know mental illness causes many divorces, but if he's not going to take his meds, I don't think I have any choice. Do you think his mental illness will affect my situation for child support, child custody or alimony? And what about his pension and his 401 (k), because he has some good money in those accounts?
M.B. in Roswell, GA
Answer: Many Americans suffer from mental illness. The good news is that once it is diagnosed it can often be treated. When people fail to take their prescription medications, there can be behavioral problems that, in many cases, cause the deterioration of a marriage. So we have certainly dealt with your problem before. And as more Americans utilize prescription meds, there will be even more cases like yours.
Common issues in a divorce include child custody, child support and alimony. If your husband is not fit to be around the children when he isn't taking his meds, that can definitely influence child custody. A judge wants to do what's in the best interest of the child, and if your husband is making derogatory comments to your kids, then a judge would base a custody decision, at least in part, on his nasty and hurtful statements. Someone making the statements you describe should not necessarily be around impressionable young people.
We would like to speak with you in greater detail and explain Georgia law in regards to child support and alimony.
As for his pension and 401 (k), those are often sources of negotiation in a divorce. Sometimes retirement accounts can have a lot of money, other times they have only a little. They can be split in many ways and we try to negotiate the best deal we can for our clients. To split many retirement accounts, you would need a QDRO. A QDRO (a Qualified Domestic Relations Order) needs to be drafted precisely and correctly or else it is not enforceable. We draft QDROs for clients when they are necessary.
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